8 March 2023
How the Lionesses have inspired me
Cadet Lizzy Kitchenside reflects on the impact the England women’s football team has had on the game and society.
Football has always been a massive part of my life. From a young age I would spend as much time as possible kicking a ball around with friends. I didn’t tend to pay much attention to who I was playing with but, when I played at school, I was usually the only girl on the pitch. It didn’t bother me much, but I often had to prove that I was capable of playing with the boys. I did my best to prove it and spent years playing with the boys’ football team.
Football was a really powerful aspect of ministry during my internship last year at Addlestone Corps. Football was a gateway to coming alongside young people. On the pitch they’d grow in confidence, and eventually open up about themselves. Today, football plays a key part in my wellbeing and in the fellowship of the community here at William Booth College. (It gets quite competitive at times!)
I have seen incredible progression in the women’s game. I remember watching my first Women’s Super League game at Stamford Bridge. Tickets were being given away over fears that no one would go. The comparison with current statistics is so encouraging. The Women’s Euros final had 87,192 spectators at Wembley, where England beat Germany 2-1, breaking the record attendance for any Euros final in the men’s or women’s game. How things have changed!
That entire tournament was a joy to follow in 2022. I watched the final while on staff at a summer school, surrounded by other staff members and young people, who were all inspired by the Lionesses. The team played with such togetherness, bringing out each other’s greatest qualities, upholding and encouraging one another, 1 Thessalonians 5:11-style! They played with freedom and were winners long before they lifted the trophy.
Leah Williamson summed it up brilliantly in a post-match interview: ‘The legacy of this tournament is the change in society. We've brought people together and got them to games. This is the start of the journey.’
The women’s game has made football accessible to more young people than ever, regardless of gender. Finally, women’s football is simply football.
The Lionesses have also used their platform to raise awareness of a multitude of issues. Most recently, the players have been wearing the ‘One Love’ armband to promote diversity and inclusion within sports. On and off the pitch, the Lionesses have been vocal about injustice, standing up for those facing discrimination and oppression (see Proverbs 31:8 and 9).
The squad’s togetherness, perseverance and concern for justice and inclusion within society continues to inspire me as a Christian and as a woman – and they currently remain unbeaten under the management of Sarina Wiegman! They encourage me to honour God with my body, to use my voice and platform to speak out for justice, and to create inclusive spaces for all people to be welcome.
This is just the start of the journey, and to reiterate what Leah Williamson said – I’m so excited for the future of women’s football. Bring on the World Cup 2023!
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